We’ve all been there. The weather is marginal and you are faced with the infamous go/no-go decision. Many questions go through your mind. How accurate are those forecasts? Has the weather already begun to improve, or is it getting worse. Can I climb above that cloud layer? These and many more can be answered by a PIREP. In this article, you will see how easy it is to submit your own PIREP.
A PIREP is a pilot report of actual weather conditions encountered by an aircraft in flight. PIREPs are usually transmitted by radio and encoded as a block of text describing the location, time, altitude, aircraft type, and weather phenomenon observed.
Unfortunately, PIREPs tend to be few and far between. For example, as of the time of writing, I count a total of seven PIREPS in the Southeast United States, and that is with an advancing cold front and rain showers blanketing the area. You can improve the aviation weather reporting system by submitting your own PIREP next time you fly.
So how do you submit a PIREP? It’s actually a very simple process. Begin by contacting the nearest flight service station (FSS) and tell them that you would like to submit a PIREP. Now, report the following items:
- Location relative to a VOR or airport
- Altitude of your aircraft
- Type of aircraft
- Time of the weather observation (example: “five minutes ago,” or “1655 Zulu”)
- One or more weather observations (example: “cloud tops 4,000,” or “continuous light chop,” or even “OAT 04 degrees”)
A simple pilot report might sound a bit like this:
You: “Atlanta Radio, Cessna 12345 monitoring 122.2”
FSS: “Go ahead Cessna 12345.”
You: “Cessna 12345, We’d like to submit a PIREP.”
FSS: “Ready to copy Cessna 12345.”
You: “Cessna 12345, over two-five east of ABC at four thousand five hundred feet, type C182, time 1655 Zulu, cloud tops at four thousand.”
FSS: “Thank you Cessna 12345.”
To make PIREPs even easier to report, AOPA has put together a great form that you can print out and fill out in flight before you contact the flight service station. To become a certified expert on PIREPs, take the Air Safety Foundation’s SkySpotter mini-course.